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Setting a precedent, progress reports for both state and federal criteria will be released at the same time


Comments from Annie: The director of the Utah Education Policy Center at the University of Utah asks: "If they vilify No Child Left Behind data and make U-PASS heroic because it paints a better picture, the question becomes: How does that help improve the education of the children in the schools that didn't make AYP?"

My question is this: What do you think the students will learn from state adherence to fallacious policy (NCLB) that destroys, not protects the best intentions of the public schools?





School evaluations come out today

Education: Setting a precedent, progress reports for both state and federal criteria will be released at the same time

By Julia Lyon
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

For the first time ever, the state today will simultaneously release federal Adequate Yearly Progress reports for individual schools and the results of Utah's own evaluation system, letting parents and teachers know whether schools are making the grade.

While the move may be rooted in efficiency, a state official says it also reflects the Utah State Office of Education's belief in the superiority of the homegrown Utah Performance Assessment System for Students (U-PASS) compared with AYP, which measures progress toward meeting federal No Child Left Behind education reform goals.

"We want to get the public focused on U-PASS, paying attention to U-PASS because we think that is the better accountability system," said Judy Park, state testing director.

Utah has not been shy about its disgust over NCLB. Lawmakers have gone so far as to support a resolution criticizing the federal education act. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education declared the Utah system did not follow several NCLB principles, including failing to require 100 percent of students be on grade level by 2013-2014, as NCLB stipulates. The state was skipped over for a federal pilot program that could eventually lead to a growth-based model, such as U-PASS, becoming a means of determining school progress accepted by the feds.

At the heart of the two systems are testing, attendance and graduation rates. But the way the data is interpreted and how students are counted can lead to such varying results that a school can meet the standards in one system and fail in another. Some school district testing directors see the strengths of the U-PASS system over the other, particularly in how it tracks student progress.

"U-PASS is a far superior measure of a school's performance than AYP," said John Jesse, Alpine School District director of research and evaluation. "And it's a much better tool to utilize for school improvement."

Officials agree that the somewhat conflicting systems can be confusing for parents, but Park describes the Utah system as having "more realistic expectations."

"It's not that we're not holding kids to a high standard," Park said. "It's that we recognize that it takes more time."

Though it's not unheard of for a state to release AYP and local accountability system results at the same time, many states announced results weeks ago, meaning parents at Utah schools facing sanctions through NCLB will learn the news weeks after the school year has already begun.

Releasing all the information at once is not necessarily problematic - depending on how it's used, according to Andrea Rorrer, director of the Utah Education Policy Center at the University of Utah.

"If they vilify No Child Left Behind data and make U-PASS heroic because it paints a better picture, the question becomes: How does that help improve the education of the children in the schools that didn't make AYP?" she said. "When presented with information you get good news and bad news - what's the human inclination? - it's to then be dismissive of the bad news."

jlyon@sltrib.com

What is AYP?

Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports measure whether a school has met a series of criteria including attendance, testing and graduation rates required under the federal No Child Left Behind education reform act.

All categories of students must meet the requirements for a school to "meet" AYP. Only Title I schools - those receiving federal dollars because of their significant low-income student populations - can face consequences for not meeting AYP.

Depending on the number of years a school has failed to meet the criteria, parents may be given the option of moving their children to another school or receiving tutoring. In extreme instances, the school's staff and curriculum may be replaced.

To meet AYP in Utah, a school must have:
* an attendance rate of 93 percent or better
* a high school graduation rate of at least 85.7 percent
* at least 95 percent of students must be tested (in all groups greater than 40 students)

at the high school level:
* 70 percent of students must pass the Language Arts state test
* 47 percent of students must pass the math state test

at the elementary and middle school level:
* 71 percent of students must pass the Language Arts state test
* 64 percent of students must pass the math state test
* an attendance rate of 93 percent or better

— Julia Lyon
The Salt Lake Tribune
http://www.sltrib.com/ci_4408814


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